‘Top Chef‘s double elimination Wednesday night sent Dale Levitski and Stephen Asprinio packing. On a call Thursday, the Chicago-based Dale shared his thoughts on departing, what went wrong with his french toast and veal, and whether he’d ever make a return appearance to the show.
Is there anything you learned from the first time around that you tried to bring with you this season?
I tried to keep it a blank slate. You can never figure out the challenges. You just have to keep your head in the game – it’s the only thing you really can do. If you try to over-analyze, then your head’s out of the game. But it’s not like that hasn’t worked for other people.
Like who? Everyone who’s still in the game?
[Laughs.] Yeah. I guess I’m just not one of the people that is going to be writing down recipes in my notebook for hours obsessing about it. I always cook from the top of my head. It didn’t work out for the best this time.
Do you think not planning was part of your demise? What do you think went wrong?
I think I was mostly confused about cooking in someone elses style, or in the style of someone I’ve never worked for. You can’t get in their head. I think my dish had the whimsy factor but the judges thought it was too sweet.
Do you agree with them?
I would never serve that dish in my restaurant. It was not my shining moment, but given the factors of the challenge and the way the episode panned out, it really looked like it was a complete toss up.
Do you think anyone else should have gone instead?
I’m really not the kind of person who’s bitter. If it was my time it was my time.
Do you think the team challenges are inherently more difficult?
The Quickfire was some of the most fun I’ve had on the show, period. It was amazing. In the team challenges it’s rare that you get a full team that’s 100% solid.
And the teams are haphazardly chosen.
Right. I would be on a team with Casey and Antonia any day.
When you’re preparing such large quantities of food and you only wind up making one or two dishes, what happens to the remains?
I think that’s a mystery for us all. We don’t know! We’ll cook it for the crew. I did hear in some challenges that the food has been donated to local charities. If it’s true then that would be awesome. If it’s not, then they should be horrified.
Was it weird for you being back in the house or did it feel like second nature?
I think a little bit of both. It’s really funny because you can really see the different seasons sticking together in the beginning, even though we’re competitors, it’s like, ‘You’re my green blankie, my safety net.’ By no means was anyone intimidating. The only competitor in ‘Top Chef’ is yourself.
“Don’t pull a Jen” was said before Judges’ Table last night. Was everyone shocked by her outspokenness last week?
Well I was at Judges’ Table with Jen. It was definitely shocking. But having no point of reference to compare it to, I was like, ‘Were you like this in your season all the time? Whoa!’ Jen has a passion and a commitment to the integrity of what she does and I think going on ‘Top Chef’ is kind of like a cooking intervention. The challenges are so hard and the parameters are so frustrating that it’s kind of like being stripped down. It’s like, How good are you at your worst?
Who would you like to see win?
That’s interesting. The people that I know the best that I think could benefit the most out of life for the win…well, Tre Wilcox I just adore. He’s become a really great friend. Obviously Casey. Antonia and Carla are both lovely people. And I’m really proud of Dale Talde. Sitting in the van, Dale and I totally bonded. He used to live in Chicago and we realized that we had like 10 different chef friends in common. Anyone deserves to win, but my heart’s rooting for them.
Would you ever go back on “Top Chef” if you were asked?
Absolutely. Even though it’s in front of millions of people, it is a game. Why not? I was a college athlete and I’m a competitor. If competing in ‘Top Chef’ was a career, sign me up!